#WeAreGamers

#GamerGate.

I’m a straight, white, cisgendered man which means I can pretty much say whatever the fuck I like about these people and still fly under their radar because their farcical “movement” is solely dedicated to the mass intimidation and harassment of women and professional journalists. #GamerGate’s arguments have an antagonistic relationship with logic, morality, reality, and basic common sense. They allege, that a vast conspiracy of feminists and “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, which, as a tip, if you are calling your archenemies “Justice Warriors” you just might be part of the Legion of Doom) control the games industry, control games journalism, and are using their nefarious vaginae to manipulate millions of people into unwittingly destroying the art form they love most.

That is what #GamerGate actually thinks. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

#GamerGate is not an activist movement. It is not about journalistic integrity, it does not have the best interests of the games industry or indeed any industry at heart. It is a hate group, a lynch mob. This is not difficult stuff.

To call the position lunacy, is to put it mildly, but it isn’t insane as much as it is diversion. The movement’s concerns have nothing to do with the quality of video games, or the content of them. The true goals are simple: Silence Women. Deny them their rights. Drive them from their homes, threaten them with rape, violence, murder. Actively conspire to drive women with opposing viewpoints to suicide, and at the end of the day, when confronted with evidence of your actions, scream “False Flag!” shroud yourself in noble intention and ignore criticism because fuck those people, they’re not us. They’re “Others”. They’re Feminists, they’re SJWs. To call it troubling is insufficient.

Where did this begin? How did it get so far? Why are we still talking about it? Well, as many of you will know, it all started when a man named Eron Gjoni posted a massive amount of highly personal and private information in what might be the single most massive breach of trust by any jilted ex I have ever seen on the internet. His novella-length tirade, which I will not under any circumstances link, is filled with screenshots of private conversations, along with his own editorializing. Whether his claims regarding his relationship with Zoe Quinn are true or not is entirely irrelevant. There is no justification for his actions in publicizing intensely private details out of pure malice.
Anyone who’s spent five minutes on 4chan knows what posting this screed there will result in. Instant lynch mob. Gjoni maintains he only posted this information because he wants people to “know the truth” about who Zoe Quinn is. Which is, of course, utter bullshit. He was, transparently, seeking revenge. Now, I don’t doubt that the man feels some degree of remorse now that he can behold the full form and horror of the monster that he unleashed on the world, but it is his monster. A monster adopted by those consumed by their own insecurity, self-hatred, and misogyny to rally around.

Hatred of feminists and those percieved as “SJWs” is sadly nothing new to the video game industry. It is an industry notable for its many and frequent fuckups on just about everything to do with gender politics, sexuality, and the general existence of women. That so many women have remained in spite of these unforced errors on behalf of developers, publishers, journalists, and consumers is testament not to how much they seek to destroy video games as #GamerGate would have you believe, but rather proof of their deep and abiding love for video games. That this is not more obvious is a sad reflection on ourselves as a culture.

Today, The Escapist ran an article  purporting to share the opinions of “Game Developers” regarding #GamerGate. The developers they dug up to comment, all male, were, oddly enough, not exactly what you or I might think of when we hear the term. Namely, they were prominent, hardline #GamerGaters. The article was originally run with the headline “Game Developers on #GamerGate”. When this was publicly contrasted with the title of the preceeding article, “Female Game Developers Share Their Views on #GamerGate” by Alex Lifschitz  it was eventually changed to the slightly more representative “What Male Game Developers Think About #GamerGate. Another telling comparison? The first article, found here, is credited to the byline “Anonymous Female Game Developers) while the later article is attributed to “The Escapist Staff”. This simple shift indicates a publication’s support for one viewpoint over the other, as do their unchanged original URLs. The earlier article, from the Anonymous Female Game Developers has a simple URL reflecting its content. The article that ran today, however, has a URL that reads “Game Developer #GamerGate Interviews Shed Light on Women in Games.”

It is clear that this article has not only been revised after publication following the deserved outcry but was potentially revised prior to initial publication, suggesting an earlier, even more biased and incendiary version. As it stands, the article is little more than an open platform for #GamerGate supporters to spew their toxins and false premise with a veneer of editorial legitimacy. Want to see what #GamerGate is really about? Go to the mentions feed of pretty much any woman working anywhere near the games industry. Here, I’ll even help you out.

That’s today. That’s just a few hours ago. Brianna Wu, of Giant Spacekat and Isometric Podcast, a person entirely uninvolved in the events surrounding The Escapist article, was doxxed and threatened in extremely specific terms.

“I’ve got a K-Bar and I’m coming to your house so I can shove it up your ugly feminist cunt”

“Your mutilated corpse will be on the front page of Jezebel tomorrow and there isn’t jack shit you can do about it”

This is #GamerGate. We as modern human beings, men and women of conscience, cannot afford to stand by and hope it goes away anymore. As Zoe Quinn herself has put it, “There is no ‘both sides’ here. People against GG’s actions are not organized, or campaigning, or using a hashtag. There’s a mob, and their targets.”

I think it is time to change that. Yes, it is depressing, it is saddening, it is maddening. We are rightfully ashamed of #GamerGaters and afraid of what they are capable of. We have seen their organization convince the world’s largest manufacturer of microprocessors to pull advertisments from Gamasutra. We have seen them drive Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian from their homes. We have seen them threaten the lives of pretty much every woman who works in the industry and doesn’t keep that fact as secret and safe as the fucking One Ring. Perhaps the best essayist to ever work in games writing, Jenn Frank, was convinced to abandon the industry altogether. Simply put, they are not going away and they are getting what they want. And their charade of standing for honesty and integrity and a great many other noble-sounding things has earned them enough support for sites as formerly-prestigious as The Escapist to pretend as if there is actually a debate going on here.

We are gamers. Our silence must not continue. #WeAreGamers. Pass it on.

Additional Information:
Timeline of today’s lunacy as regards The Escapist.

Thanks to commenter Avalon for providing the link to The Verge’s story on Intel caving to #GamerGate’s pressure.

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Am I The Problem? A Reaction to Tropes Vs. Women in Videogames

The following is a reaction to Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women in Videogames series.  It is written by a white, cis male, which I recognize is possibly the worst thing to be in writing any critical response to the series as presented so far.  I am not denying the points the series makes, and I am certainly not denying the industry’s huge problem with gender, stereotypes, and women in general.  Sexism is real, and it is entirely possible for someone to not be sexist and still benefit from its deeply entrenched roots in modern society.  I have no doubt that I benefit from sexism in ways that I cannot enumerate, though given the quality of my life and the fact that the most recent major event in it was getting a type of cancer that it is physically impossible for someone of the female sex to get and the subsequent loss of my ability to procreate, I will admit I find it hard to see exactly how I benefit.

I am going to be honest about my reaction to the series and it is my sincere hope that nobody hates me for it.

Tropes vs. Women in Videogames makes me feel like a bad person.  Really, really bad.  Downright evil, and no, I’m not exaggerating for comic effect like I normally do.  I know that this is likely not the case and that part of the point of the series is to target people like me, straight men who consider themselves feminists and make us uncomfortable with the state of affairs.  Well, it succeeds.  Forgive me if this is oddly disjointed, most attempts to play hop-scotch in a minefield are.

The series, if you haven’t seen it, is presented as a very matter-of-fact lecture, and seems to be aimed at the lowest common denominator, which, given the deranged and disturbing response to Ms. Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter I entirely understand.  Many of the people most in need of education on this subject have not exactly shown that they are capable of understanding complex, nuanced subjects such as this.  Honestly, I’m impressed they’ve managed to attain even a limited grasp of human language.  While I understand that I am not the lowest common denominator that lashes out and makes threats if someone dares to challenge something that I like, I do feel like I am being patronized and talked down to while watching the videos.

Maybe I need to be talked down to, though.  Again, I’m serious, maybe I am part of the problem.  But am I?  How broadly do you define the problem?  I’ve supported dozens of the games specifically called out in her three installments on Damsels in Distress.  I’ve supported them with my money, and I’ve enjoyed playing them, and I haven’t really given a tremendous amount of thought to the implications of this.  I’ve also played and greatly enjoyed Beyond Good & Evil, the game most praised by Ms. Sarkeesian in her series for its general excellence in both quality and positive portrayal of women.

“Isn’t it enough for a game to just be fun and well made?” I thought to myself at one point.  Well, that depends.  If games are just toys, diversions, distractions with no deeper meaning, I’d say yes, it is enough for a game to just be fun and well made.  If no one will ever take them seriously, it is enough for a game to just be fun and well made.  That’s not true, though.  Perhaps the hidden point of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is that games not only are art, but they have always been art.  There was no magical threshold crossed in the mid-90s or early millennium that transmuted them into art.  The ideas presented in games have always mattered, even if the creators did not necessarily have that intent at the outset.

Still, I wonder, “Am I the problem?”

If Ms. Sarkeesian’s method of presentation bothers me, and if I am bothered by the implication that my taste in games does include, but is not limited to games called out as problematic, is that not my conscience telling me that I am a bad person, and deserve to feel bad for it?  Especially considering that while after viewing and carefully considering her points, I have no intention of more carefully vetting the games I buy for their portrayal of gender?  I will certainly be more aware of it, yes, but if some future game employs this trope to some extent and is otherwise excellent, will I still buy it?  Yeah, probably.

As you can tell I am, in many ways, a deeply insecure person.  Is it a good thing for the world that I won’t even theoretically be able to reproduce?  Would the world be better off without me?  Am I even a man anymore?  These are common refrains.  Experience shapes and forges us all, and my experiences have directed my critical gaze more inward than most.  I’m not a stranger to being on the wrong side of debates.  I’m sure I’m still on the wrong side on a great many things, life is about learning and adapting, becoming better in the process.  In recent years I’ve found myself arguing out of ignorance on the topic of rape culture, something that the modern, more educated variant of me is rather ashamed of.  Likewise, while I respected transgenderism, until Lana Wachowski’s brilliant and revelatory speech on the subject, I held some rather ignorant views on it.

Open and intellectually honest debate is of course worthwhile, and that’s what I’m attempting to do here.  If I’ve failed, I apologize.  I’m trying to respond in an honest fashion.  I do not consider myself a sexist, I consider myself a feminist.  Have I been a bad person, though, in not speaking out more, not doing more, not attempting to in some way repay those whose oppression I benefit from?  Is my patronage of certain media harmful, and if so, aren’t I morally obligated to stop supporting it, even if I otherwise enjoy it?

I don’t know.  Maybe there’s more point in the question than the answer.

A User’s Guide to Media Reviews

Editor’s Note: This is a companion piece to my previous article, “An Objective Review of Dragon’s Crown”  Read it here.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of people who seem to be confused about the purpose of reviews. Specifically video game reviews, but you can apply them to movie reviews, book reviews, really anything involving art. Mostly this confusion stems from the perception that reviews must be “objective”.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Andrew, you sly, sexy thing, reviewers should be unbiased in their work!”

This is wrong. Reporters should be unbiased in their work. Reviewers entire job is bias. There are acceptable and unacceptable biases for reviewers, though. A good reviewer will not allow their review to be unduly affected by any previous perceptions they have about the work, positive or negative. That includes, for example, their personal opinion of the creator, or the system the game is released for. A good review is based entirely on the reviewer’s opinions and observations of the work that they accumulated during their experience with the finished art.

Reviews are objective by nature. This isn’t a problem, this is in fact why they are a useful tool. If you have determined whether or not you like something, or are going to buy something before reading any reviews of it, congratulations, you do not need to read the review. That’s not to say you shouldn’t, I read reviews of things I like, dislike, or have no intention of buying regardless of the quality all the time. It is a form of entertainment, and it can enrich your experience by providing a different perspective from which to appreciate art. A good review of good art will enhance your appreciation of that art.

What you shouldn’t do is use reviews to try and confirm your own biases. We’ve all done it and there’s nothing inherently wrong with this practice either. Who doesn’t love reading an awful movie being eviscerated or a horrible game being pilloried by such masters of the negative review as Jim Sterling and Yahtzee Croshaw? This isn’t what reviews are there for, though. Its a bonus, a treat, and can serve as a validation of your own good taste.

Where people get hung up though is that disagreeing with a reviewer doesn’t make either of you wrong. It just means you disagree. That’s why it is important not to just look at Metacritic aggregates, but to seek out individual reviewers, individual voices who you agree with. Not on score, mind you, but on observation. Different people appreciate different things for different reasons. One reviewer may appreciate a certain kind of game more or less, or a certain style greatly. Find reviewers who appreciate the same things that you do, and if you are unsure as to whether you should or shouldn’t check something out, seek out their opinions.

“But what if the reviewers I usually agree with disagree with me, MSK?”

Well Strawman, it still just means you disagree. Maybe you should think about what you disagree on. If someone who thinks a lot like you do dislikes something that you don’t, odds are you’ll be able to understand their point quite easily. This can improve your enjoyment! Understanding not only that you enjoy something but why you enjoy something is itself enjoyable. Being able to love art not just despite but because of its imperfections is great.

This is why the late lamented Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were so highly valued, not just for their own skills at reviewing movies, but for their wildly different preferences. “Two Thumbs Up” really meant something, because it meant that two colleagues who think differently enjoy the same thing. It was a double positive review, if two people who disagree vehemently on a regular basis like the same movie, odds are it is a really good movie.

All this is not to say there isn’t such a thing as a Bad Review, however. This comes down again to bias, in the case of video games it also involves skill. If someone has made up their mind about something before they have seen it or played it, they have no business reviewing it, and thankfully you can usually tell, because the people who do this are not professionals, but rabid lunatics zero-bombing things on websites that allow for user reviews pre-release. Likewise, if someone just plain isn’t good at a particular game genre, they never play them personally, what have you, they have no business reviewing those games.

Sports games are the most common example, here. For me, its certain 2D fighting games. I am BAD at them. All-Caps BAD. I can’t beat more than three or four levels in Street Fighter IV on the easiest difficulty. That bad. When I see dozens of positive reviews of Street Fighter IV, though, I don’t get upset at the reviewer, though, of course not. I know its not for me, and I can still appreciate their observations with no intent of acting on them.

Which brings me to the current debate going on in the commentariat over at Polygon over their Dragon’s Crown review. A lot of people are going to really enjoy this game and would likely give it a score above 6.5 themselves. That is fine, but it doesn’t mean the author is weighing down the score with her own personal baggage. Some people do not like hypersexualized women and male power fantasies in their games. That detracts from their enjoyment.

“But MSK, if they don’t like sexy babes in their games, they shouldn’t review games with sexy babes in them! That’s your logic!”

No its not, Strawman. That’s a perversion of my logic. Dragon’s Crown is a beat-em-up, a brawler, with a heavy emphasis on its art style as a primary selling point. Naturally, critique of the art style is not only fair game in a review, but a necessity in a review. We’re not talking about someone who just hates brawlers, here, and besides, Strawman, and since I created you, we both know that isn’t your actual problem with the review.

This is the nature of criticism, people will always disagree. I have never had a problem with a little cheesecake here and there, but to me, Dragon’s Crown seems to be rather obnoxious with the way it presents its particular flavor. That’s my opinion. Is yours different? That’s fine with me.

And it should be fine with you, too.

An Objective Review of Dragon’s Crown

I’ve been seeing a lot of controversy regarding the new Atlus/Vanillaware game, Dragon’s Crown.  Specifically, many people are unhappy with the review posted by notable gaming website Polygon which can be found here.  Personally, I found the review to be well-considered and fair, and it has not diminished my interest in the game.

However, we here at The Chaos Fold always seek to please you, dear reader.  So to make up for the perceived “bias” and lack of “objectivity” I have crafted the following, a completely objective review of Dragon’s Crown.

*ahem*

Dragon’s Crown is a piece of interactive software designed for the purposes of recreation and entertainment. It is available in two formats, one for the Sony PlayStation 3, and one for the Sony PlayStation Vita. It has been released in the Gregorian calendar year of 2013 AD/CE. Each version has slightly different controls, and while the PlayStation 3 version has higher resolution graphics and higher quality sound reproduction, the PlayStation Vita version can be played in a wide variety of locations and does not require the ownership of a “Television Set” peripheral.

Dragon’s Crown features combat between belligerents of varying shapes. These shapes are generally inspired by various western fantasy archetypes, and have a wide array of colors in them. Some of these archetypes are humanoid. Others are non-humanoid.

There are also animations, and visual effects generated by these characters. Sometimes this animation takes place during combat. Sometimes it does not. Sometimes this animation is triggered by player input, other times it is triggered by unseen scripting.

The game contains audio, some of which is represented in the form of sound effects, and some of which is musical in nature. There is also a good deal of text, which can be informative of gameplay systems or mechanics, or related to the game’s storyline.

The game has a storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end.

There is multiplayer, solo play, and solo play with AI-controlled allies. Allies, both AI-controlled and human-controlled attempt to be helpful. On occasion, they do not succeed.

The storyline is progressed by initiating combat with multiple enemies through a variety of environments, and succeeding in this task. There are various missions through which you can advance the primary storyline, and various other tangential missions that do not directly advance the primary storyline. Successfully completing missions will provide the player with rewards. Many missions culminate with combat against an enemy significantly larger and/or more powerful than previous enemies.

Players will use inputs on controllers to affect change within the game world.

Upon completion of the game, the game can be replayed.

Editorial note: The Chaos Fold’s review of Dragon’s Crown is based entirely on facts that literally anyone can acquire with or without playing the game.  No code was provided by Atlus or Vanillaware for this review and I am not being paid by anyone for this, or indeed for anything else.  If you require more detailed analyisis and critique of this game, we at The Chaos Fold urge you to seek out a professional video game reviewer whose opinions have historically aligned well with your own.  Note that any review obtained in this manner will not be objective, as media criticism is an inherently (and entirely) subjective.  Please see the companion piece, A User’s Guide to Media Reviews.

I Shine This Light For Boston

It has taken me a while to parse my feelings on yesterday’s tragedy in Boston, a city dear to my heart. A city of great friends, and joyous memories. And I find my answer in the words of great men, and the wisdom of a a geeky creed that has seen me through the collapse of my life in Washington D.C. and the battle with cancer that have tested me these past three years.

I hold with Theodore Parker, who was later paraphrased by many, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Because the world is getting better. It gets better slowly and there are always setbacks, but my hope for the world will not be snuffed out by any violence, any terror, any tyranny or injustice.

And that is why acts like this are ultimately futile, no matter how hard the cynical and hopeless try, no matter the violence and brutality of those of us who have gone astray, the hope of Humanity is an unquenchable flame, and it will see us through.

I shine this light for you, Boston.  I shine it from atop this mountain, I shine it for those whose courage drew them toward danger that they might help their fellow man.  I shine it for the wounded, persevering in the face of darkness.  I shine it for all those angered and grieving.  I shine it for those three who were lost. I shine it for those who are defiant in the face of fear.  I shine it for you, wherever you are, reading this, in the hope that its light might bring comfort and inspiration to you as it has to me.  My light is small, but it will never go out, for as the Blue Lanterns say, Hope Burns Bright.

Thank You

If you only check my blog, and that would seem improbable you don’t know that I’ve been fighting cancer since late July. Its been mostly waiting so far and now that chemo has begun I wanted to, now that I’m one week in on the Big Fight write up a little list of all the people who’ve been awesome and put it online so you all know it. I’ve probably forgotten some people, chemo makes me scatter-brained. I’m sorry in advance. Everyone below has personally done something that has made this fight one worth fighting.

And so, in stream-of-consciousness order:

THANK YOU

Travis Maxwell
Bridgette DeFelice
Corey Greenhawk
Marian Call
Liz Smith
Ken Levine and everyone at Irrational Games
Dustin Tallman
PJ Megaw
Tommy Heflin
Gail Sexton
Gayle Gawlik
Jonathan Morales
Katee Sackhoff
Molly Lewis
Scott Barkan
Chris Fabugais
Robert Kirkman
Ruth Tallman
Justin McElroy
Travis McElroy
Griffin McElroy
Mark Williams
Kara Hodge
Grant Morrison
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Matt Marone at Project Triforce
Karen Chu
Craig Ostrin
James Zimmerman
Chris Dishong
Nick Lyman
Rachel Peters
Rachel Kemp
Michael Ballack
Alice Ly
Bobby and Naomi Knox
Andrew Bown
Pat Gravel
Paul Huston
Angela and Aubrey from The Doubleclicks
Nicole/Hello The Future I’m sorry I don’t know your last name
Bill Paxton
Eric Reid at WMEE
John McLaughlin
Jonathan Nolan
Jim Caveziel
Michael Emerson
Taraji Henson
Amy Acker

My grandfather Calvin
My mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins
My father, who’s the best in the world.

Zerzhul, Frugus and the whole PAX Prank Group

CAN’T QUIT YOU!

And everyone else, all you beautiful human beings who make up the army I never knew I had, if I forgot your name I’m eternally sorry, because you are the people who are crafting these beautiful points of joy that have let me light my way through the darkness, you are all of you nothing short of amazing, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. They will answer to the might of the Magic Sword King.